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Minecraft (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.4
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Written by  :  Indra is here (19679)
Written on  :  Apr 03, 2011
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Summary

[v1.1] Playable, but may eventually leave the player unsatisfied and wanting.

The Good

Review Version: v1.1 - Typo, grammar fixes, and some sentences that just didn't make any dang sense :p.
Review Date: April 3, 2011
Review Length: 5 page(s).
Game Version: v12.1.2.0 Alpha.
Game Mode Used: Single Player (Offline).
Tech Specs Used: Intel Core 2 6300 1.86 Ghz CPU, 3 GB Memory, 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT Video Card.
Finished: Sandbox game - Not applicable.
Last time played: March, 2011.

There has always been this fascinating admiration I suspect for many people in terms of creating and growing things. However, it is to my absolute horror and disgust that the games industry really hasn't picked up on these type of games. You know, games where you can build anything and everything to your hearts delight. Or in a gamer's vocabulary: customization utopia (which unfortunately has only transformed to being just a modder).

I. Introduction – What is Minecraft?
Note: This section may be skipped. For gamers unfamiliar with the game.

Ever wanted to build structures from your wildest imagination? Floating palaces, lava-maze dungeons adorned with flower gardens, or a gigantic boobie-shaped toilet structure occupied by grazing cows? (well, some of my imaginative ideas are somewhat disturbing). This is the game where all your incredible and nasty little architectural fantasies come true.

Minecraft is a game where the player may build structures out of basically (almost) any material in the game. These materials consist of pixel cubical blocks which may be placed upon each other to create structures. Some of these cubes are subject to the laws of gravitation (e.g. sand, etc.) while most others do not. This allows the player to build structures that were technically impossible to create based on the laws of physics (e.g. a flying glass thong-shaped citadel).

To create this structures (if the player so desires), the player must first mine the building materials, by digging using specific tools (when applicable) or using the character's bare hands (in the beginning). The player starts carrying nothing, but will later be able to create tools from wood, stone, iron, etc. Certain tools are also more efficient in gathering these resources (e.g. axes for wood, picks for stone and minerals, etc.). Other resources may be collected from animals (cows, chickens, etc.) and plants (cactus, flowers, etc.). Though these aren't necessarily building materials, they may be used for other means (e.g. constructing armor, food for health, etc.).

Sounds easy enough, if not for roaming monsters that indefinitely and randomly spawn in dark areas. As the game has a day/night cycle as well as different degrees of light, a nearby random generated monster may quickly disrupt the player's building progress. Especially if mentioned monster is a creeper that does a kamikaze routine on the player and blows up, destroying a section of your flying G-string citadel (summer collection).

Primary gameplay is basically collecting these resources, creating structures, and designing these structures and its surroundings to the player's aesthetic desires, while trying to survive and dodge monsters by creating defenses and light sources to prevent monster spawning.

II. Architectural Imagination
The primary allure of the game is to either explore these randomly created environments and create structures big enough, complex enough, or artistically compelling enough to satisfy the player's ego and ambitions. Search the net and you'll find amazing structures that you'd thought were impossible to accomplish but no doubt be equally amazed on how other players managed to create them and how much time they have to spare in the first place :p (I'm still impressed by a player that managed to design a freakin' football field, seats and all...not so impressed by another bloke who had time to do a gigantic Spongebob Squarepants).

Although building material varieties are somewhat limited, figuring out the uses of certain building materials is also part of exploration concept in the game. Sand for example may be smelted into glass, which offers a see-through building block. Rivers (water blocks) and lava may be used for decorative or defensive purposes (figuring out how the physics work is somewhat straining however).

Due to the nature of the game, all of which comprise of pixel blocks. The world as you know it may be manually changed to your liking. Repeat: You can change the world. Sure, it's hard work, but OCD gamers like myself must obey the inner hardcore gamer voices to change all those dang stone mountains into glass-shaped poodles. Why? No idea. :)

Additionally, the game actually comes in two different worlds (three if you count surface and underground worlds). The second world (the Nether) is another dimension which is similar to hell. Lava and creepy monsters. Only reason why the player needs to go there (well, why not?), is to gather infinite amounts of lava to create indestructible obsidian blocks. Though surviving that place all together will quite a feat in itself.

The Bad

As I suspect, gameplay may be primarily intended for multi-player experience; please note that the single-player (offline) may not quite as exhilarating, which is the focus of this review. The following also may or may not be applicable to the multi-player experience:

I. Under Construction
Well, the most obvious problem is that the game isn't really finished and probably (seeing the trend of similar games) will probably never be finished. This results and some good and bad things. The good thing is of course that in the course of time, many new easily down-loadable features may be implemented in the near future. The bad, are as the following:
  • A. Next Update? TBA (To Be Announced)
    You'll never know when a new feature will be implemented. When a new version of the game is finally released, there's also the issue of whether or not this new version will screw-up your previous saved game and its buildings (if you decide to use old saved games) or if its even supported. Coming back again and again just to see if there are new versions or features is a straining chore and somewhat disrupts gameplay immersion.

  • B. Limited Everything
    So the game is still in Alpha. Or is it Beta? Well, one of those. Which basically means that everything in the game is limited if you really want to be ambitious, in terms of item and building material variation. Though this is only noticeable when you've played for a few days. Each new version may or may not include new materials.
II. Annoying Spawn Algorithms
Spawning apparently occurs near the player (or may appear to be so). Whether it may be in the form of docile animals or horny monsters, it usually occurs in near the vicinity of the player, instead of what you'd expect: anywhere. This introduces some annoying features, which include:
  1. Spawning in later versions also occur ridiculously fast and any creature is not permanent in affect after you move out of range;
  2. Creepers (and any monster for that matter) jumping on you out of nowhere (if it's dark);
  3. Traps that are particularly useless since if you're not near the place, there won't be anything to trap anyway;
  4. Creating permanent animals farms is technically not applicable as mentioned above. Herding isn't really possible (well, possible but difficult and redundant). Don't even know why I bothered mentioning this in the first place, since domestic animals don't breed, but spawn. :p
III. Non-Educational Value and Disruptive Learning Curve
The game seriously lacks description when it comes to items or basically anything. The first time around it is equally exciting and frustrating to figure out how to combine materials to discover new items. As there really aren't many hints in-game, eventually the player will be forced to go to Minecraft Wiki and find out how the hell to create a dang shovel.

Unfortunately, as game wiki articles go, they disclose practically everything about the game. This may basically kill all forms of excitement and anticipation in the context of discovering new stuff. Other sandbox games were imaginative enough to create certain random events that still offer the player something to look forward to. All surprises are eventually nullified by visiting the wiki since such events do not really exists and the last surprise worth waiting for is that hell-dimension, which isn't really much of a surprise since you already know what's in store there from the wiki.

IV. Creepers and an Un-Medieval Context
A creeper in Minecraft is what I call a party-crasher. No doubt any Minecraft player will agree to a certain extent, that the creeper damages gameplay more than it does in terms offering a challenge. This is because creepers blow themselves up with significant damage to the environment (particularly your structures) and possibly killing yourself in the process. In addition to the spawn anywhere near the player feature, creepers may also drop in on your uninvited behind if you're digging around a mountain (or anywhere else for that matter) if you aren't too careful.

The explosive capacity of the creepermay or may not be related to a somewhat unimaginative inclusion of the items such as gunpowder and TNT in what a player may presume is supposed to be a medieval-fantasy world. Personally, if the explosive capacity of the creeper, gunpowder, and TNT were removed, Minecraft would be a much more less annoying place to build sand castles. Though this is an obvious subjective opinion.

V. Disappearing Items
If items aren't stored, they will eventually disappear from the game permanently. For a game that has emphasis on building and (possibly) material conservation, this is somewhat an extremely stupid idea. Although this may well have to do with memory allocation and efficiency, there really must be a better way to resolve this.

VI. Redundant Surface World
Sooner or later you'll figure out that the surface world (above ground level) isn't worth exploring or building (except if you want to building structures you can see from afar). Most of the unique metal materials are located far, far, underground...and the player is demoted to from building lovely structures to just digging straight down in an un-imaginative fashion just to find these materials.

VII. Sound Lag
When starting a new game, sometimes the sound doesn't...er...show. Depending on luck, it may pop-up later in in the game after several minutes (or not at all). This has occurred in at least two versions I've tested.

The Bottom Line

It is undoubtedly clear that this game has the capacity to become an extremely complex and ambitious game in terms of architectural possibilities. The obvious problem, also found in many other sandbox games, after finishing your first mega-project, what reason is there to continue? Unless there are more diverse and unique features to be implemented, the single-player game will quickly warm out its welcome after a few days of gameplay. Might as well wait a few years and see what it'll evolve into in the meantime, since there are by far (at this point of Minecraft development) more interesting and demanding completed games out there that deserve our immediate attention.

Although perhaps the reason why I'm not particularly thrilled to the possibilities of Minecraft is because I have already played by far a more complex mining/architectural strategy version of Minecraft called Dwarf Fortress (freeware) which practically makes Minecraft look like a mini-game as far as features goes. It's also unfortunately, buggier than Planet Insectesoid in Bug Universe. :p